Press office - Maggie's Centres

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We work closely with the media to raise awareness of how we support people living with cancer, their family and friends. We have expert spokespeople to talk about the latest cancer issues as well as key facts and figures about our support, our centres and living with cancer.

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London Marathon Runner for Maggie’s named top female fundraiser by JustGiving

Caroline Frith from London has amazingly raised over £22,000 for Maggie’s – the national cancer support charity, which she credits with supporting her mental and emotional health at Maggie’s Barts, while she goes through cancer treatment.

Although she had run previously and used exercise to keep herself physically and mentally fit, Caroline had not run a marathon in over 12 years.

Last Sunday saw Caroline run the London marathon in less than three-and-a-half-hours,

Remarkably, she only started a 16-week marathon training programme with a coach on New Year’s Day this year and she set up her JustGiving page the same day with the aim of raising £3,000.

Caroline says she was astonished to see she had raised that amount in just 72 hours, and now, following the marathon, is ‘over the moon’ to see her current total of over £22,000 still climbing.

To her absolute dismay, Caroline’s cancer returned eight years later in February 2022 following a primary breast cancer diagnosis when she was aged just 36.

I ran the race for me

Caroline said: I still find it difficult to wrap my head around the fact that I have stage 4 cancer or to believe that it has metastasised and become incurable. I really wasn’t sure how I would cope with training for a marathon on top of treatment.

My treatment means that like many people with side effects, I will wake up and my joints are stiff like an old lady but once I get going, I’m okay. I refuse to allow cancer to stop me from doing what I want to do and living my life with my husband, Ian, and my two children Matilda (14)  and Eric (11). I actually believe I cope a lot better through with the side effects of cancer treatment through training than I would be if I wasn’t exercising.

She adds: I’d entered the ballot for the London marathon many times before and had never been picked and I knew this year might be the last year I could do it.

I didn’t run the race for anyone else or to prove a point, I did it for me. But it was wonderful to see my friends and family – many of whom had travelled from afar to come to see me – lining the streets to cheer me on and to read the many, lovely messages and donations that people have made to see me complete the marathon.

The best bit about all of this is that I have been able to raise money for Maggie’s Barts to help other people with cancer like me. Maggie’s have been a real lifeline and looked after me and my family. They have helped me to cope mentally with such a devastating diagnosis.

They are wonderful welcoming spaces for people with cancer and their families to go before, during or after appointments, where there are kind, caring people you can talk to if you’re worried, or just to sit and have a cup of tea and not talk to anyone.

They provide practical help too with how to cope financially, claim benefits, apply for travel insurance, deal with issues at work, write a will, provide information on nutrition and exercise – all of the things that can seem overwhelming on top of everything else.

Victoria Curran, Maggie’s Barts Centre Head, said: It was incredible to see Caroline complete her goal of running the London Marathon and do what she loves. Her choosing to support Maggie's in this way helps to ensure that Maggie's can be there for people with cancer.

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If you'd like to take on a challenge for us – we're here to help you every step of the way. 

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How the hidden cost of cancer is damaging mental health
  • Additionally, 78% of people are struggling to pay bills because of the unexpected costs that come with a diagnosis, with over a quarter (28%) feeling the impact strongly
  • 84% also admit they were shocked by the extra expenses they incurred following a diagnosis, with a third (33%) saying they were very shocked.

These hidden costs of cancer include:

  • extra travel to and from medical appointments
  • the cost of parking near hospitals
  • bigger heating bills as people recover at home
  • a change in diet due to eating restrictions or a desire to eat more healthily
  • additional toiletries to help deal with the side effects of treatment and much more.

The survey, carried out by OnePoll* for Maggie’s, which polled 250 people living with cancer, highlights the soaring costs of living with cancer and the damage to mental health it can cause.

The finds have been released one week before the UK government’s budget. Now, the charity is calling on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to take notice.  

Coping with cancer is far harder today

Maggie’s Chief Executive Dame Laura Lee said: The soaring cost of living with cancer is shocking enough, but to hear how badly it is impacting mental health makes it even worse. First there is the impact of a diagnosis, then the huge unexpected additional costs of cancer which can be around £900 a month.

That then takes a toll on mental health leading to increased anxiety and depression. These hidden costs have always been there, but they are compounded by the drop in income that usually comes with a diagnosis and the current cost of living crisis. Coping with the cost of cancer is far harder today and the government must address that.

It is unthinkable that someone worrying about cancer is also worrying about putting the heating on, getting to their hospital appointment or buying food.

Zoe Winters, Benefits Adviser for Maggie’s West London, added: Unfortunately, cancer is not something anyone plans for financially, and it is not surprising that the hidden costs come as such a shock. People are already trying to cope with the cost-of-living crisis on a reduced income following a diagnosis, and then they are faced with the reality of travel costs or an increased food bill. It is unbelievably difficult for people to manage.

Jim and Liz’s Story – Jim uses 16 boxes of tissues a week

Jim Melvin, 71, from Lanarkshire, uses 16 boxes of tissues and 16 kitchen rolls every week as a result of his oesophageal cancer diagnosis and tracheotomy (an opening surgically created through the neck into the trachea – windpipe - to allow direct access to the breathing tube).  

He and his wife Liz say their weekly shopping bill has gone up considerably – possibly even by a third –because of the need to buy items like extra tissues and kitchen rolls to make Jim’s life more comfortable, as well as ice cream to help with the after-effects of radiotherapy. 

The couple also spend more money on new clothing to accommodate the fact that Jim now has a tracheotomy to assist his breathing. 

This is in addition to unavoidable costs that many people with cancer face, including extra fuel and transport to hospital appointments and additional heating costs.  

Liz explains: The tracheotomy is something that Jim has had to learn to live with. It creates lots of saliva secretion, which can be embarrassing as it can come out unexpectedly and this has meant we’ve had to buy quite a lot of new clothes; tops with zips or buttons at the top which fit around the tracheotomy and Jim needs to change his top half a few times throughout the day. This means we have lots of additional laundry costs too. And there’s the additional 16 boxes of tissues and kitchen rolls that we have to buy every week too.

Jim says: My throat is often sore, so I eat a lot of ice cream and ice lollies. These are things that no one thinks about but we have to buy three and four boxes of ice lollies every time we go to the supermarket.

Additional quotes 

Rachel from Nairn, Scotland is being treated for blood cancer, she said: Honestly, I’ve spent hundreds on books because long admissions gave me nothing else to do (especially in the pandemic). The best investment I’ve made since getting sick was an iPad purely for watching things and using FaceTime in hospital. 

Mary, from South West London, England, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021, she said:  I was lucky to have discretionary sick pay which meant that I didn’t have to work through my active cancer treatment, but my cancer diagnosis increased my spending significantly.

I had expected increased costs to do with food and transport. Taxis were a real expense for me. I had to take this on because this was the safest way for me to get to my appointments when I had a weakened immune system. This was to reduce my risk of infection.

I hadn’t really anticipated increased costs associated with physical changes due to cancer and these were the costs that surprised me the most. This was due to a change in diet which came about when I was having chemotherapy. I also had additional costs because my skin became increasingly dry and sensitive. This meant I had to trial lots of different moisturisers especially when I had treatment induced neuropathy which left me with numbness and burning sensations in my hands and feet. I needed an additional moisturiser to try to get some relief.

I also couldn’t drink ordinary water because it left a horrid metallic taste in my mouth so I had to opt for other liquids I could tolerate instead like coconut water. Cancer in itself is hard and it can impact your finances significantly. To have to trade off your mental and physical wellbeing due to financial worries is a decision that people shouldn’t have to make.

How we can help

We're have expert staff in our centres available to help you. 

*Key OnePoll survey results   

  • 84% of people said they were shocked by the extra expense following a cancer diagnosis
  • 78% said they were struggling to pay the bills because of the hidden costs of cancer
  • 83% of people said unexpected expenses since their cancer diagnosis had impacted their mental health negatively.  

Research used must state as a reference:  

OnePoll surveyed 250 respondents from 17 February - 28 February 2023. The survey was conducted online using panel members who are credited to participate in surveys. Respondents who are currently living with cancer were targeted using screening questions and profile data in order to ensure the correct demographic was achieved.  

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People with cancer more worried about cost of living than diagnosis

The OnePoll* survey, polled 500 people currently living with cancer.

  • 80% of people with cancer also said they are worried about the cost of travel to their hospital appointments with over a third (34%) saying they worry ‘very much’

  • Over half (55%) of those surveyed also said they think they will struggle to pay for food this winter and two thirds (67%) think heating bills will be a problem. 

At our centres, we are hearing about people with cancer struggling to go to appointments because of travel costs and/or asking if they can end treatment early so they can return to work because they can’t afford to be off any longer.

Cost of living overshadows living with cancer

Our Chief Executive Dame Laura Lee said: It is truly shocking that people living with cancer – which is possibly the hardest, most frightening experience of their lives – are now so worried about money that it is overshadowing the fact they are living with cancer.

Many even feel the current crisis will impact their chances of successful treatment.

The situation is clearly only going to get worse as the cost of fuel, food and heating continue to rise in the autumn. We know people with cancer are harder hit by the cost of living crisis. They need to use more heating, they are living on reduced incomes and paying to travel for treatment.

We also know people are returning to work too early and even missing appointments because they can’t survive on benefits. This too can have devastating consequences.

This is simply wrong. People with cancer need to be able to focus on treatment.

At our 24 UK centres we have experts to help if someone is worried about money as well as professional staff to help with eating well on a budget, stress management and much more. We are here for you.

Yamin's story 

Yasmin, 57, from West London has secondary breast cancer and had to give up working for British Airways – a job she had been in for 20 years due to ill health. 

She is struggling trying to live on benefits and says it’s an experience she has found humiliating. This has been greatly exacerbated by the recent cost of living crisis.

Yasmin said: Physically I am doing ok, the side effects of the drugs I need to take are not too bad, but mentally I have been affected.

Applying for benefits has been humiliating and it was not something I asked for. I never asked for cancer, I never asked to lose my job. Claiming benefits is such an intimidating process. 

I live by myself. My nephew in Canada invited me to stay with him over Christmas in 2021 and paid for my flight. He and his wife wanted to look after me and make sure I would not be alone for Christmas.

It was a very happy time, however, when I came back my PIP claim was rejected by the DWP when they learnt that I had travelled to Canada. They said I could not be that bad because I had managed to get on a plane, and they wouldn’t give me anything. I couldn’t believe I had gone to Canada for support and this was being used against me. It was so humiliating.

Thankfully, Zoe, the benefits adviser at Maggie’s in West London helped me to appeal this decision. I just couldn’t have done it by myself, I was not in my right mind. We actually had to do this twice before I was awarded any money.  

My income is now my PIP and Employment Support Allowance. I am learning to live differently after decades of having a good income. I have a flat in Uxbridge and I have been there for ten years.

When I lost my job, the council began paying my rent to my private landlord. Their rate is lower than what I used to pay (around £800 compared to £1,000). The landlord is not happy about that, so I am just hoping that he won’t kick me out.  

I am living on essentials and never buy clothing. Things are definitely getting worse.

I go to the supermarket at around 6pm to buy the reduced bread, I’ll freeze half because I can’t afford to buy it fresh anymore.

If you could come and see how I live, I don’t think you would believe it. Little things make a really big difference.

Worried about money 

Melanie Bunce, Benefits Advisor for Maggie’s Fife, said: I have been a Benefits Advisor for 25 years and this current situation is the worst I have ever seen.

The fact is that even very ordinary situations are now becoming impossible for people with cancer. 

People who could have managed a year ago are now facing stark choices between eating, heating and travel to hospital appointments – and particularly badly hit are those in low income jobs.

The stories we are hearing in our centres have become so much more desperate in the last six months and it is only going to get worse.


How we can help

We're have expert staff in our centres available to help you. 

Our coverage 

Please see some of the coverage generated on the back of our OnePoll survey looking at how worried people with cancer are about the cost of living crisis. 

We also appeared on Sky News, LBC, STV’s 6 o’clock news and news bulletins running throughout the day on Classic FM, Heart, Capital, Smooth, Radio X and Gold.

*Research used must state as a reference
OnePoll surveyed 500 respondents from across the UK from 22 July 2022 - 1 August 2022. The survey was conducted online using panel members who are credited to participate in surveys. Respondents who are currently living with cancer were targeted using screening questions and profile data in order to ensure the correct demographic was achieved.

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Stories from our centres

Lots of people who visit Maggie’s are happy to share their stories. Here are some examples but please do contact the media team if you have any specific requests.

Duncan's story – Maggie's was our second home

Duncan tells us how Maggie's helped his family when his wife was diagnosed with advanced cancer.
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Vicky's story – telling my sons was so hard

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Tom's story – Maggie's gave us financial breathing space

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